The Sinking City Review
I will be honest straight off the bat. Suspense-Horror Titles are not my forte, but The Sinking City has me hooked (pardon the poor pun). My next bit of honesty, is pertaining to my progression through the game. At the time of posting this review, I have logged over 50 hours of game time, hit a dead-end in my investigation and spent two days trying to figure out my next step toward cracking my current case!
The reason I bring up my predicament is because I do not understand how so many reviews have hit the internet without completing the game in it’s totality. I have been playing since I received my early review code last week, and the story has progressed immensely, but from what I have seen by watching the directors commentary video’s, I have not even scratched the surface, yet I have been playing almost non-stop.
It Goes Deeper Than You Think
Another bad pun, I know, but seriously, The Sinking City has a Mythos that mutates both characteristically and brutally unexpectedly. I really cannot stress enough that even though I have not completed the game, I will only be covering the portion I have played thus far, score the title accordingly, and once completed, revisit this review and add a second section and updated conclusion addendum to give this fantastic title the review it truly deserves.
Why am I being so serious in my tone? Well, I am late with my review, and I do not want to be “that press guy” that posts a review, just for the sake of posting a review to supply to the publishers and developers. The time, research and accuracy that has gone into making The Sinking City is just mindbogglingly brilliant and astounding at the same time. When you launch the game, you are greeted not only with the “usual” agreements and warnings, but also with an added cautionary, warning you that the contents of the game have been written and directed to reflect cultural and racial accuracies depicted for the era that you are playing the game in, which also includes religious atrocities committed by the likes of the Klu Klux Klan as a prime example.
If what I have just said disturbs you, then I would like to give you the option of either reading further, or stopping right here and now, because The Sinking City is very brutal in how it tells it’s stories and spares no apology for your fears, insecurities or your regard for morality. It is truth, mixed with fantasy, so close to one another that the lines are blurred just enough to make you seriously contemplate whether or not the scenes and stories are real or fan fiction, as there are many references within the game to service both newcomers and avid fans of the world from horror author H.P. Lovecraft’s novels. A minor spoiler though… (mouse highlight this space to willingly reveal) I held The Book of Dagon in my hands! (feints from “fan-girl” moment)
Put Your Big-Boy Pants On
You play the game from the perspective of Private Detective, Charles Reed, who is suffering from disturbing visions and indistinguishably life-like dreams. His research has lead him to the City of Oakmont, which is not on any map, but is experiencing an influx of new permanent “visitors”, because once you land on the Island, it is made very clear very early that just like The Hotel California, you can never leave.
New arrivals are labelled and “Newcomers” and are shunned straight away by the locals. Oakmont is home to many humans and “sub-humans”. These sub-humans, namely the Insmouthers and the Throgmortons are genetically mutated humans as a result of cross-breeding with Fish (The Deep Ones) and Apes, respectively. The Throgmortans are seen as “Royalty” as where the Insmouthers are seen as a nuisance, especially seeing as they have come to settle in Oakmont after a tragic event destroyed their home of Insmouth.
Then you also get the Carpenters (Human), a third player in society who help balance out the “Elite” Families within Oakmont. With a silent power-struggle-feud in play between the Throgmortans and Carpenters there is lastly a specific Cult that manipulates both main “royal” houses and gains a foothold in Oakmont in such a spectacular way, that you will not see it coming until it is too late to reverse the consequences of your actions that have aided all three parties in one way or another, neither preventing nor promoting the impending doom that threatens the survival of all civilizations around the world.
You Are Your Worst Fear
Upon your arrival in Oakmont, to your good fortune you have early contact with the Head of the Throgmortan Family, who then makes use of your detective skills, which then also reveals a certain spiritual gifting or “power” that you gained not too long ago after your ship was wrecked and you had a particular encounter with someone… I will neither confirm nor deny whether that entity was Cthulhu.
With the use of your “Mind’s Eye”, you can see things that nobody else can, and in some instances, even see into the past and replay scenarios that give you the upper-hand in piecing together your investigations.
During your first investigation, you encounter “Wylebeasts”, which are strange creatures that have appeared right after “The Flood”.
The Flood was a strange cataclysmic event that lay waste to the whole of Oakmont, where either the water levels rose, or the city sank. The title of the game would lead you to believe the latter, obviously, but do not be fooled, remember earlier I said, things are not as predictable as you think. However, I digress. The Wylebeasts are all some sort of, self-aware, stitched together mutation of human body parts, again, challenging your beliefs and your curiosity behind the obscure possibility of slight truth behind these creatures really existing, due to modern advancements in genetic manipulation.
Your Moral Compass Means Nothing
Once you start travelling between Oakmont’ Suburbs, you will come across “Infested Area’s” which are zoned off due to them being so dangerous, but often times, you are forced to traverse these Wylebeast Nests for your Case Clues or Items. Speaking about items, Oakmont has gone back to bartering for goods, as money has lost it’s value, seeing as no relief is in sight from the outside world, so quest rewards, bribes and currency is in forms of bullets and medicine. With bullets being a currency, you really do think twice before pulling your trigger in a fight, often opting for spanking your enemies with a spade instead.
During your investigations, of either “Side Cases” or your Main Case, have all clues kept in a Case File to help you follow your progression and look back on earlier revelations. Once you have pieced enough evidence together, it will show up in a section of the game called the “Mind Palace” as a “Deduction”. Combining multiple deductions, will give you the opportunity to solve the case, sometimes leading to some very questionable results that you will be remembered for, like choosing between killing one person to save the multitude, or thinning out the multitude to save the one. Yes, it is pretty messed up, but like I said, the game and story’s inspiration are only paralleled by historically true events.
The most frustratingly enjoyable feature behind The Sinking City, is the fact that there are no quest markers or blatant guides to show you the way through the game or to tell you how to play. You legitimately are the author of your own experience, and really need to read a lot and piece your clues together carefully to find locations of suspects, victims and items which in turn allow you to progress further into the story behind The Flood and the connection between the aforementioned Cult and certain individuals.
If you hit a dead end, like I currently have, you need to visit either The Police Station, The Oakmont Chronicle, The Hospital, The Library or The City Hall to combine clues with city records by means of cross-referencing a plethora of different criteria to reveal the next step by either granting you an address to visit or the name of a story critical individual that you need to either trace or have a discussion with. Yeah, that’s what I’m stuck doing at the moment. I am looking for the location of a man, with an injury to the head, and I have nothing but his name and the name of one of his colleagues to go by… “fun times”.
30 July 2019 Update
I have finally managed to progress much further into the game and yes, I am still loving every moment. Things have gotten much more intense in the sense of “Religion” and “Cults”, which the game does state are based on historical events, but it does not however soften the blow when it comes to how brutal those times really were. The attention to detail in The Sinking City is spectacular, and I can only sing the praises of the developers and story writers, because it really is quite a uniquely horrifying experience. The encounters with the mutated creatures have become increasingly difficult, to the point where if not planned out correctly, result in your untimely demise. This is the only thing that has become frustrating, because once you die, you restart your encounters from the beginning and this is where loading time has become a massive “downer” for me. Loading back into the action takes roughly 2 minutes, and within these 2 minutes I often find myself loosing interest in carrying on with the game, so if I had to make one suggestion to the developers for a future patch, it would be to reduce the loading packet size or area that it loads, to streamline your game play a little more.
The Sinking City was released today, 27 June 2019 for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 Platforms by Bigben Interactive (Publishers). Developed by Frogwares, the development team worked very closely with the team involved with Lovecraft’s content, to create a unique, yet nostalgic experience for everyone that delves into The Sinking City. The game is set to release for PC on Steam in 2020, and an expected release date on Nintendo Switch around the same time as the PC release. At the time of this review, you can Pre-Order your PlayStation 4 copy for R825.00 via BT Games. If you are a fan of the “Lovecraft Realm”, detective games and not being spoon-fed your gameplay through large directional markers on your mini-map, then investing in The Sinking City is worth your time, as you will be spending more time than money to really enjoy this game. If reading through paragraphs of clues and having zero “go here”, “do that” in big neon letters is not your style of gaming, then you should steer clear of this one or perhaps watch someone play it.